By Andy Young
AB InBev's on-going program of selling assets in a bid to gain regulatory approval for its proposed takeover of SABMiller has been extended further.
Having already agreed to the sale of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands to Asahi, plus SABMiller’s share in CR Snow, which brews the world’s biggest selling beer, as well as the sale of SAB’s share in MillerCoors to Molson Coors, AB InBev is now looking to offload SAB’s eastern European assets.
The sale will include all of SAB’s assets in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. This includes the rights to the Pilsner Urquell brand, but only outside of the US, the rights within the US have already been sold to Molson Coors.
As well as Pilsner Urquell the sale would include the Hungarian beer Dreher, Polish beer Tyskie and Lech and Romania’s Ursus.
With news of the possible sale speculation has turned to which companies would be in for a deal said to be worth in excess of AU$7 billion.
John Colley, a professor of practice who researches large takeovers at Warwick Business School, said Asahi could follow up its Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime deal with this option of further European expansion.
"Competition authority negotiations to win approval for AB InBev's deal with SABMiller are continuing to take their toll,” Colley said. “One major brand included in the latest sale is Pilsner Urquell and its worldwide rights outside the US. Japan's Asahi might be a possible suitor following their acquisition of Grolsch and Peroni. Within the US Pilsner Urquell is going to Molson Coors as further efforts are made to gain competition authority approvals.
"In North America, while MillerCoors has been sold to Molson Coors, there are continuing concerns from anti-trust authorities about control of distribution and AB InBev's ability to prevent craft beers reaching drinkers. After the disposal of MillerCoors, AB InBev still has 45 per cent of the US beer market. It is vertically integrated into wholesalers and many of the others represent AB InBev exclusively. One senses the game is not over either in the US or Europe and that further restrictions will be imposed.
"AB InBev's enormous market shares, post the SABMiller bid, have resulted in major disposals in the US, Europe, and China together with worldwide rights to a number of brands such as Grolsch, Peroni, Miller and now Pilsner Urquell. The main objective of the deal is stronger growth positions in Africa and Latin America. However, the extent of divestments elsewhere needed for competition authority approvals, is continuing to grow."
In a statement about the sale, AB InBev said that it expects “considerable interest from potential buyers.”